Harry Styles in Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk

Harry Styles Brings History To Life For One Direction Fans In Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’

One Direction’s Harry Styles has filled many roles for his fans. Harry has been a friend, a first love, and a role model, for Directioners. Now Styles is taking on the function of a very special history teacher in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk.

Christopher Nolan’s inclusion of Harry Styles in his film Dunkirk was a stroke of genius that could etch the memory of a point in WWII history into a generation of young people. One young woman, a One Direction fan, Erin Shields wrote a beautiful editorial for The Daily Globe And Mail, which she titled “A Harry Styles Gut-Punch of Reality.”

“I identify with him [Harry Styles] as someone my age, and in the trailer, he looks it. He’s 22, and he looks scared. He is surrounded by death. Yes, he is playing a character, but it’s merely a question of timing that allows him to participate in the fiction instead of the reality.”

In another time One Direction’s Harry Styles could have been drafted or even felt compelled to volunteer. Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is a depiction of real events and represents real people, just like One Direction fans and their friends. Erin feels Harry represents herself and her friends if they had been born in another time.

“More than ever before, I became aware of Harry Styles as a proxy for every boy I know, and in an age when gender constrictions don’t mean as much as they used to, as a proxy for myself as well. There are kids my age and kids younger than me who have and are going to war.”

One Direction fans like Erin feel they know Harry Styles, and Harry is her age. It is easy to empathize with Styles in his Dunkirk role and to feel his pain more easily. Christopher Nolan’s film will give a far better feel for the situation than just reading a history book that describes soldiers in terms of numbers of casualties, or survivors.

Harry Styles of One Direction
Harry Styles of One Direction. [Image by Jason Merritt/Getty Images]

Harry Styles’ Dunkirk role stirred up more than an understanding of things that happened long ago. History isn’t just about what has happened in the past, it is also an awareness of what can happen again in the future. That idea is not lost on Erin Shields.

“Frightening things are going on in the world right now, but for many of us, these realities are still not immediate. We see horrors on the news every day, wars that are being conducted elsewhere in the world and racial conflict and rhetoric that should be raising alarm bells for everyone everywhere. People seem to have forgotten what we swore never to forget.”

One Direction fan Erin Shields has been awakened to another kind of reality, simply by watching the Dunkirk trailer with Harry Styles. Is Erin’s thoughtful editorial an example of the impact Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk will have on Directioners, raising an awareness and an understanding of the full implications of war?

Harry Styles role in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk makes this history so compelling for those who know and love him, as a member of One Direction. History is most interesting in the light of empathy with those who have gone before, but at times it is hard to see those individuals in a history text. Often people turn to journals of people who did live through the times for greater understanding.

Harry Styles’ role in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk represents young men, who were about the age of the One Direction boys in 1940. It was long ago before even television was commonplace. There were only movie theaters and radios. Movie theaters often showed news clip of the war, like the rare color one below. Phones were something that attached to a wall, and not every house had one. Yet these young men had much in common with today’s youth in most ways.

Dunkirk soldiers often kept journals and wrote diaries of events. Henry Bond was one such soldier, who, like Harry Styles character huddled on the beach near Dunkirk, and made a daring rescue. Here is an excerpt from May 28, 1940, in his journal, quoted on BBC History.

“After spending a cold and cramped night in a ditch, with fitful sleeping disturbed by shell fire in Dunkerque, explosions from delayed action bombs and fired ammunition dumps and the glare from Dunkerque fire and another fire, the location of which we were not certain, and in addition the uncomfortable closeness of enemy Jerry lights, we moved just before dawn.”

Harry Styles of One Direction and Dunkirk
Harry Styles of One Direction and Dunkirk. [Image by Helga Esteb/Shutterstock]

Not everyone went ashore like One Direction’s Harry Styles’ character, though. Here is an account by Arthur D. Divine, one of the soldiers who manned the rescue boats.

Arthur D. Divine’s account is well written and available to read on Eyewitness History in case Harry Styles fans want to read up before they see the Christopher Nolan version of Dunkirk.

“Then aircraft started dropping parachute flares. We saw them hanging all about us in the night, like young moons. The sound of the firing and the bombing was with us always, growing steadily louder as we got nearer and nearer… As we approached Dunkirk there was an air attack on the destroyers and for a little the night was brilliant with bursting bombs and the fountain sprays of tracer bullets.”

So what will One Direction fans learn from watching Harry Styles in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk? What is the meaning and message to be found in the accounts of World-War II veterans who were eye witnesses to the Battle of Dunkirk?


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Probably, One Direction fans, their families and their friends who watch Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk this July, will each see something different. History is often a matter of personal interpretation, but Nolan’s Dunkirk promises a realistic depiction of the events.

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk will feature huge panoramic views of battles. The personal stories of each man’s experience will be acted out with painstaking historical accuracy.

Harry Styles will bring history to life with his role in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. Harry’s participation will make the action heart-stoppingly real for One Direction fans.

What will you conclude from One Direction’s Harry Styles’ performance in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk?

[Featured Image by Star Max 2/AP Images]